Animal Assisted Therapy for Health Care, Mental Health, and Educational Professionals

Often professionals wish to incorporate animals into their professional practice.  If they take this action, involve the animal in a client care plan and document the results of the interventions, then this is Animal Assisted Therapy. 

Sometime professionals will bring their pet to work and have that pet “be present” during sessions. 

Both may be beneficial to the client, but only the first is actual “therapy”. 

The following descriptions are based on Standards of Practice for Animal Assisted Activities and Therapy originally published by the Delta Society in 1996:

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance quality of life. This may mean social interactions with those recuperating in the hospital, visits to retirement homes or even stress relief events on college campuses.

Animal-Assisted Therapy  (AAT) is when a therapy animal or team is overseen by a professional health provider, mental health provider or educational specialist and incorporated as part of a goal-oriented and structured therapeutic intervention. This may mean and animal/team works with a physical therapist where the client practices brushing a dog for strength building exercises or partnering with an occupational therapist where the task of attaching a secondary leash to an animal is an activity to work on fine motor skills.
Professionals may involve their own pets, seek trained pets from various organizations, use facility mascots, or work with a therapy animal team. All approaches have pros and cons!

Animal-Assisted Education (AAE) is a goal-oriented, planned, and structured intervention directed by a general education or special education professional. The focus of the activities is on academic goals, prosocial skills, and cognitive functioning with student progress being both measured and documented.


AAAIP is a community of professionals who value the human animal bond and the power of animal-assisted interventions. AAAIP serves the needs of all AAI professionals:

  • Mental health professionals
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • School counselors and personnel
  • Eldercare professionals
  • Social workers
  • Speech/language pathologists
  • Therapy animal program coordinators
  • Anyone working with animals in a therapeutic setting
  • Animal trainers
  • Researchers/Behaviorists
  • And more!

Click on the logo above to go to the website with much more information and resources.